My Chemical Romance Shed Their Emo Roots

You can't spell "My Chemical Romance" without "emo." No, really. You can't.
Neil Krug

Call My Chemical Romance anything you like. Talented. Petulant. Even sell-outs.

Just don't call them emo.

"All emo means, to me, is being emotionally disturbed and having really bad hair," says guitarist Frank Iero, who, like singer Gerard Way, has been consistently outspoken when it comes to folks not calling My Chemical Romance an emo band.

"We've always wanted to stay away from that term because it simply doesn't apply to us," he says.

Much to his chagrin, though, the term has been associated with the band ever since its inception back in 2001. And, despite Iero's irritation, when listening to three out of the four albums My Chemical Romance have released, it's difficult to tell exactly why they shouldn't be considered emo. The band's 2006 effort, The Black Parade, is considered by many to be a landmark emo album.

"Thankfully, with our latest record, we have probably heard the last from emo," Iero says.

The album he's referring to is Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, My Chemical Romance's bold 2010 release. Besides being a great album, Danger Days is remarkable for being such a dramatic break from the doom-filled angst of the band's earlier efforts.

"We couldn't stay stagnant," Iero says rather matter-of-factly. "We just didn't want the same things as we did 10 years ago."

Yet the change in tactics on Danger Days is more than just a decade of maturity. Songs like the infectious (if annoyingly titled) "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" and the disco-pulsed "Planetary (Go)" sound like the work of an entirely different band—and, yes, a better one at that. It's as if Cheap Trick's Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen kidnapped these guys and taught them every power-pop trick in the book.

"The album is not a reaction to our previous records," Iero says, albeit somewhat unconvincingly. "We simply decided to write songs, not an album."

Indeed, Danger Days does play out like a diverse collection of singles. And, thanks to their embracing the change in sound so enthusiastically, it's difficult to fault the band's sincerity.

It's not just the music that is different, either.

"It was time to end the long stares, the bombastic props and get-ups," Iero says of My Chemical Romance's updated stage presence. "That look was part of the reason we got labeled emo in the first place."

Whatever you call the band, this much is clear: This is a band on the up-and-up, whether the band's fans are ready to embrace the new sound or not.

"There will always be assholes in the crowd wanting to throw change at you," Iero says. "But this new record is a party record. And I think fans old and new will want to party along."

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